Bob Mackinnon

Old Meanings for an Old Bid

In the good old days a double said what it was meant to say, ‘increase the penalty’. Well, that is the view of the purist with failing memories, but life was, and is, richer and more varied than the idealists lead us to believe. Of course, the intent was to inflict punishment on errant opponents, but the call itself took on various meanings according to the circumstances under which it was invoked. Here are a few of the interpretations that I still encounter at my local bridge club and even observe on BBO from time to time.

The Undouble My Double Double This rare type was introduced to me through a 1973 book by Robert Ewen entitled Doubles for Takeout, Penalties and Profit. I’ve never used it myself, but recently it almost came up in a major tournament on BBO. The circumstances are that one has made a double during the auction indicating a particular suit, but now that the opponents have bid to slam regardless, you wish to cancel your previous message and have partner lead a different suit. Say, you doubled a cue bid of diamonds to suggest sacrificing in that suit because you held 6 to the queen-jack, but now wish to have partner lead another suit, because the defensive values in diamonds are negligible against the freely bid slam. This idea has been generalized as follows.

The Cancel My Previous Bids Double This is a very useful double in our age of weak suit interference. One sees frequently that bidding bad suits leads to bad defence. One may bid ‘em up early with bad suits that could be used profitably in an offensive mode, but once the priority shifts to defence a different set of criteria applies. The double conveys the meaning that the opponents may have been pushed profitably in the wrong direction by your deceptive maneuvers. Classified as an expert maneuver.

The Lead Your Suit Double A variation of the above against 3NT contracts that conveys the message ‘hope your suit is good enough to beat this contract, because mine isn’t.’

From my experiences at the table I can list several other interpretations which can be put to penalty doubles. Although they may not be as theoretical sound as the Cancel My Bids Double, they are common enough.

The Point Count Double After the opponents bid to a cast-iron contract the doubler announces he has 16+HCP. This is the most common and least successful double.

The Picket Fence Double A defender doubles a suit contract partly on the strength of a gappy 5-card holding in their trump suit, only to find he has helped declarer make it.

The Get Your Wish Double A variation of the previous type in which one doubles a transfer bid to advertise the suit only to end up defending unsuccessfully in that strain with nowhere to escape. A prime example is: 1NT (Pass ) 2 (Dbl) All Pass. -670.

The Trump Void Double A player doubles with a void in trumps in an attempt to protect partner’s presumed QTxx or such. Altruism at its finest.

The Suicide Double A short-sighted double of a doomed contract that pushes the opponents to a more profitable contract they wouldn’t have bid. An example: 4♣* moved to 4 on a Moysian fit, making due to the marked ruffing finesse in clubs. Fairly common. If partner doubles 4, it becomes the rare Double Suicide Double.

The 3NT Chicken Takeout Double The RHO preempts in a minor and the LHO bids a cold 3NT, but a confident balancing double by a previously silent defender induces the LHO to change his mind and takes out to 4 of the minor, because he trusts his opponent more that he trusts his preempting partner. This works even at the highest levels.

The 6NT Option Double A player makes a Lightner Double of a slam contract, giving the opponents the chance to escape to a makable 6NT. Only Zia would employ the anti-Lightner variation in which he wants to be on lead against a shaky 6NT.

The I’m on Lead Lead-Directing Double Technically, an anti-positional double, but how the opponents react to this otherwise meaningless action may help determine the best lead. Another Zia specialty employed during an extended slam auction.

The Honeymoon Double ‘Be my dream come true,’ and become the only one to find the obscure defence that beats this contract. Employed exclusively by new partnerships.

The Confusion Double ‘Too many bids, partner.’ A double made by a mediocre player who hasn’t been able to follow the lengthy auction in its entirety. Often works!

The Suspicion Double ‘These guys have a history.’ Generally not a good reaction.

The Pessimistic Double ‘A bottom is a bottom, partner.’ A double with a low probability of success that is employed exclusively at matchpoints.

The Admiral’s Prerogative ‘I assume you can beat this.’ Some players are not content with being captain of the constructive auctions, they also want to make all the decisions in a competitive auction as well. That constitutes a promotion from the captain of a sunken ship to the admiral of a doomed fleet. Otherwise unfathomable.

The Clever Monkey Double A fatuous double of two of a minor made in the hope that the opponents will take the inadequate reward of two doubled overtricks rather than bid game. Here is the situation: 1♣ (1) 2 (Dbl) All Pass. The clever monkey holds a poor hand with 4 worthless hearts, so rather than raise hearts preemptively, he doubles, and no one at the table can be sure of what that means. If challenged with a redouble he will raise hearts which may get doubled in turn and yet be a good save, which is what he was aiming for all along. (It has been suggested that this cousin of the Striped Tail Ape Double is Chinese in origin and based on the legend of the Monkey King and his partner, Libidinous Hog, traveling to the West, but I very much doubt that.)

The Sayonara Double A blatantly hopeless double made at the end of a game as a polite, unspoken suggestion that this end the partnership once and for all.


Chris HasneyMay 19th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

ROFL! Very nice article. Recommend you send it to The Bulletin for publication in that forum.

Dave (MOJO) SmithMay 20th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Too funny!

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